Camp Verde, the only gateway to Arizona’s two Wild and Scenic rivers, is a vibrant agricultural community and the valley’s oldest frontier settlement. A must-visit for adventurers and history buffs alike, Camp Verde is located in the center of Arizona, less than an hour from Phoenix, Flagstaff, Prescott, and Payson.
With the region’s only access to the Verde River and Fossil Creek, Camp Verde is a great base for kayaking, canoeing, rafting and tubing. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find a rich network of scenic trails leading up into the surrounding highlands. History buffs will find much to explore here including the Fort Verde Historic State Park, which interprets the life of frontier soldiers and families in the 1880s. Other historical sites include the 1916–17 George Hance House, which was built for cattleman and postmaster George Hance.The historical house museum (open by appointment) presents period furnishings and art as well as tools, books and clothing Just around the corner on South Main Street, the Camp Verde Historical Society Museum exhibits photographs, art and printed matter that tell the story of early frontier days in the valley.
Spread across the region are hundreds of early culture sites including Montezuma Castle National Monument, where visitors can see the ruins of a five-story cliff dwelling built by the Southern Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425. A short drive from the cliff dwelling is Montezuma Well, a Sinagua site considered sacred by the Yavapai. The Verde Valley Archaeology Center, on South Main Street, preserves artifacts, interprets the region’s early cultures and presents a display from the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Other popular experiences include a stop at the town’s microbrewery, winery tours and tasting room visits, the 104-acre Out of Africa Wild Animal Park, and Cliff Castle Casino, voted Arizona’s No. 1 casino 16 years in a row.
Built in 1912 at the base of Cleopatra Hill, Clarkdale is located on two mesas overlooking the Verde River. One of the first master-planned communities in Arizona, Clarkdale was built to provide housing and amenities for the employees of the United Verde Copper Company. Today the original town’s site is recognized as a Historic District with the National Register of Historic Places.
A stroll along Clarkdale’s vibrant Main Street will reveal engaging local restaurants and businesses, the Arizona Copper Art Museum and Four Eight Wine Works, a local winemakers’ cooperative. Clarkdale is also the home of the Verde Canyon Railroad, which offers a variety of experiences including a four-hour roundtrip journey past Native American ruins and historical sites with views of bald eagles, herons and other wildlife.
The 42-acre Tuzigoot National Monument, a National Park Service site, is a 800-year-old Sinagua pueblo with an interpretive museum and surrounding hiking trails. Tavasci Marsh, located within the park site, is a spring-fed freshwater wetland that has been designated as an Important Birding Area by the North American Audubon Society. Arizona State Parks also manages portions of the Verde River Greenway along the Verde River in Clarkdale. The community is surrounded by lands of the Prescott National Forest to the west and lands of the Coconino National Forest to the east.
Named for the beautiful Cottonwood trees that grow along the Verde River, Cottonwood has grown from a small farming community to Verde Valley’s population center. Charming Old Town draws visitors with its postcard-worthy Old West atmosphere including nearly three dozen Prohibition-Era buildings. Highlights include the Old Town Center for the Arts, Arizona’s oldest craft distillery, a local brewery and tasting rooms for four local wineries, offering live music on the weekends. A favorite Cottonwood attraction is the Blazin’ M Ranch Wild West Adventure, a living history experience and chuckwagon dinner show.
The beautiful Verde River runs through Cottonwood, and the town is near the spectacular Oak Creek Canyon area. Nearby recreational areas include Prescott National Forest, Riverfront Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, which offers camping and RV facilities, trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, and 20 acres of lagoons stocked with rainbow trout November through March. The Verde River Greenway State Natural Area is adjacent to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and offers great birdwatching, hiking, fishing and picnicking opportunities and canoe or kayak launch access for the Verde River Paddle Trail.
A visit to picturesque Jerome includes exploring the winding streets carved into Cleopatra Hill, which juts a mile in the air. Visitors will want to stop at the Mine Museum for insight into Jerome’s copper mining past. Refurbished in 2007, the museum is on the site of the once elegant Fashion Saloon. The compact museum boasts a beautiful hammered tin ceiling and interprets Jerome’s early history, from gambling and the red light district to education, mining, commerce, medicine, the arts—even El Barrio Chicano, the city’s Mexican town.
Nearby is the Jerome State Historic Park, which features the 8,000 square-foot adobe home that once belonged to James Douglas, the owner of the Little Daisy Mine. When it was built in 1916, the Douglas Mansion had all the cutting-edge conveniences of its day, including steam heat, electricity, telephone service and a central vacuum system. Today the building, with its high ceilings and multiple fireplaces, is devoted to recounting the history of the Jerome area and the Douglas family through photographs, artifacts and a 25-minute video. The library has been restored as a period room.
Jerome’s wealth of galleries and artist studios will delight visitors interested in the arts. The popular Jerome Art Walk, which began in 2006, takes place the first Saturday of every month. Visitors come for the quality and diversity of the work, which ranges from , photography, sculpture, painting, and ceramics to fiber art, fused glass and jewelry and for the festive charm of evening in Jerome. Award-winning restaurants, tucked into renovated historical buildings, boast some of the best dining in the region.
Sedona, named the most beautiful place on earth by USA Today in 2013, is situated in a rugged, unique geological area that has mesmerized visitors for decades. Breathtaking panoramic views of iconic red rock countryside stretch out in every direction. Sculpted by water and wind over millions of years, Sedona’s major red rock monoliths have come to be affectionately identified by names such as Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Eagle Head Rock, Coffeepot Rock and even Snoopy and Lucy of Peanuts fame. Some of these sites are said to be vortexes—sources of beneficial energy.
In addition to the draw of its inspiring landscape, Sedona appeals to visitors who want to hike, horseback ride, or criss-cross the area in a bouncing Jeep and then enjoy the comfort of a deluxe hotel, country inn, B&B or resort at night. Indeed, this is the paradox and enchantment of Sedona: upscale accommodations, unique shops, inspiring art galleries and fine restaurants nestled in a rugged canyon surrounded by the
1.8 million-acre Coconino National Forest. The forest encompasses seven intriguing wilderness areas adding to an extensive list of sightseeing and recreational options that includes state parks and national monuments. It is hardly a surprise that the winding road through Oak Creek Canyon is not only Arizona’s first officially designated scenic highway, it is the also first leg of the beautiful drive from Sedona to one of the world’s great wonders, Grand Canyon National Park.
A sovereign Native American tribe from the Verde Valley, the Yavapai-Apache Nation comprises five tribal communities in the Verde Valley: Tunlii, Middle Verde, Rimrock, Camp Verde and Clarkdale.
Yavapai and Apache history in the Verde Valley spans several hundred years. The Yavapai originate from Yuman-speaking people known as the Pai. The Apache descend from an Athapaskan background similar to other Apache groups to the East. The two indigenous groups co-existed in the region while maintaining their distinct cultures and languages, and became one tribal nation in 1934.
The Yavapai-Apache Tribal Administration Complex, Tribal Court, Council Chambers, and Cliff Castle Casino are located on the reservation in Camp Verde, about 90 miles north of Phoenix and 40 miles south of Flagstaff, along Interstate 17.